December 2nd, 2011
Artist: Alicia Keys
Label: Sony Legacy
Release date: June 28, 2011
In 2001 a precocious, 20-something prodigy won critics, fans, and Clive Davis over with her culturally-defining debut album. Ten years later, Alicia Keys lets us revisit the 5-time Grammy Award winning classic, songs in A minor with a 10th anniversary edition. All the original songs plus a few extra are compiled on this special keepsake for Keys’ fans.
Keys’ debut was a mixture of R&B and soul laced with a hint of hip hop, probably reflecting her New York roots. The opening track, “Girlfriend,” displays these variables working together. Keys’ cover of Prince’s “How Come You Don’t Call Me” stretches her soulful chops, proving her musical knowledge as an artist and fan. It is also one of the few tracks on the album that was not written by Keys herself.
Tracks composed by Keys include the epic debut single, “Fallin’.” The moment “Fallin’” entered our collective consciousness, everyone took notice. At a time when hip hop had formulated the equation to crossover to mega pop success, Keys’ heartfelt ballad was piercing, genuine and refreshing. From the a capella intro to the haunting backing vocals, “Fallin’” remains as strong now as it was at the beginning of the millennium.
Keys’ songwriting continued strong throughout the album. “Troubles” is a beautifully wrought cry for help, while “Rock Wit You” is a throwback groove to the disco sounds of the ‘70s. “A Woman’s Worth” was the second single, and its message of female adoration in a relationship is still true. The standout song is still the piano-laden “Butterflyz,” which is perfectly segued with the tender “Never Felt This Way (Interlude).” Much like SWV’s “Weak,” “Butterflyz” captures the essence of new love.
As for the twelve additional tracks on the Collector’s Edition, some are old, others new. Three are remixes or different versions of original A minor songs, including the Nas-assisted remix of “A Woman’s Worth.” One of the brightest moments is the inclusion of “Juciest,” a song that appeared on a mixtape a few years back. Keys’ sampling of the Mtume staple is perfect as she moves on from a broken heart and ungrateful suitor. The newest edition is “Typewriter,” a tantalizing tease. The accompanying DVD includes a mini documentary created for this edition featuring interviews with Keys and her collaborators, plus several music videos.
Overall, the deluxe edition of Alicia’s re-release is as satisfying as the first time around. A great piece to add to your Keys collection.
Reviewed by Lorin Williams